Visceral Protest Art Emerges in Tehran Fountains

Haunting and politically charged work

Iran protests
Iranians living in Athens hold placards during a protest in solidarity with Iranians fighting for their freedom, near the Acropolis in Athens on October 8, 2022.

In the weeks that followed the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of police in Iran, the country has abounded with protests against the government and the nation’s Guidance Patrol — better known as morality police. Events in support of the protestors have become widespread all over the globe. One recent New York Times article included mention of multiple events that had recently occurred in New York, including a candlelight vigil in Brooklyn and a march in Manhattan that took place in tandem with a number of similar international events.

In Iran, regular protests continue — but so have other forms of holding the regime to account for their actions. A new article at The Washington Post focuses on one especially visceral technique: turning the water in several fountains across Tehran red. A Twitter account that’s been providing images of the protests featured several in one post, and the evocation of blood is instantaneous.

According to Google Translate, the text can be translated as follows:
“Photos submitted with this description:
Title of the work: Tehran drowned in blood
An unknown artist painted the ponds of Tehran in the color of blood:
Student Park, Shahr Theater, Fatemi Square, Artists’ House.
Friday, October 15, 1401

The Post quoted art historian Pamela Karimi, who observed that “art has become a tool in the hands of the people to communicate their unhappiness with the system.” The article also notes that the fountains affected by the protests have significant historical resonances — they don’t appear to have been chosen at random.

It’s an evocative example of the ways in which art can act as one aspect of a protest movement — and it makes for a scene that’s difficult to forget.

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